We have heard more and more recently about prosthetics being made using 3D printers. We’ve heard about arms, legs, hands, and even ears that have been printed using this latest fad in technology.
Now, there is another body part that can be added to the ever growing list. A Reno, Nevada man, named Christian Call has 3D printed himself a working fingertip. It may not look like a normal human finger, but it certain works almost just as well.
Christian Call lost part of his finger in a work related injury a while back. He lost the portion of his finger that is medically termed the Distal Phalanx. In layman’s terms, it is basically the finger tip. It is the portion of the finger from the first knuckle forward. Ever since losing this portion of his right index finger, Call intended on finding a way to have a prosthetic created. He said that his doctors made it out as if losing the finger tip was not really that big of a deal. However, this wasn’t the case for Call.
“When I was healing and still seeing the doctor I got a sense that the doctor and those around him didn’t think a partial amputation was a big deal,” he explained. “I have spent my entire life using my hands, and my index finger is especially important to my career and my hobbies. Without it my right hand function is very impaired. Purchasing a prosthetic was not an option since the price is so out of reach for most people.”
So Call decided to create his own prosthetic, using a little bit of his design skills, and an UP! Mini 3D printer. The main purpose of the prosthetic for Call, was to have as much function back in his finger as he did prior to the accident. He was not concerned if it actually looked like a human finger or not.
“The prosthetic looks the way it does because it is the natural progression of my first designs, limitations of 3Dprinting, and the nature of the injury,” explained Call. “My current design is the latest of about 10 earlier designs.”
The rest of Call’s finger works fine, so he designed the fingertip to utilize the current capabilities of rest of the finger. He has not seen any other 3D printed fingertips anywhere, so he believes that his may be the very first.
This prosthetic that Call created includes 3 separate parts:
1. The Tip – A replacement for his missing fingertip.
2. The Anchor – Holds the small cables tight and provides a way to adjust the length of these cables.
3. The Cup – Gives a means for connecting the tip and a way to route the small cables from the anchor to the tip.
The cables used in the prosthetic are routed from the anchor through passages in the cup, to the fingertip. The end of the cup is rounded, and acts as a pulley for the tip actuation. When Call simulates a grip with his hand, the cup and the anchor move away from one another, while the cable pulls the tip, causing it to move much like a real fingertip would.
It has taken Call hundreds of hours of work, to learn, design and test dozens of different models. He has made about 10 different designs, and countless modifications that all have led up to his current design.
“I might make slight modifications daily, if I see a way to make it work better, or look better,” said Call.
While the majority of the fingertip is 3d printed, it also includes a few other small pieces: A 6″ piece of stainless flexible jeweler’s cable, a small screw for the anchor, an adhesive backed foam piece for the fingertip, and a small piece of a 1/16″ steel rod. He estimates that he has spent around $5.00 in total materials on this tremendous creation. Not bad for a custom prosthetic finger that probably functions better than the traditional ones that would have cost him several thousand dollars. Call also has made designs for other people, including partial fingertip prosthetics.
Christian Call is a member of 3DPrintBoard, and goes by the username “Jeeplvr” there. Feel free to post your feedback and thoughts to him, on the forum.